Photo: Hailey Akau
Allston Christmas: The communal yard sale nobody asked for
Photo: Hailey Akau

Allston Christmas: The communal yard sale nobody asked for


For some, Allston Christmas is the most resourceful time of the year. There’s college kids moving in and out, and seemingly everyone abandoning unwanted belongings on the streets—from mattresses to swords. It’s the communal yard sale that nobody asked for, yet many attend.  

Yet if Allston Christmas is indicative of anything, it’s that many Boston students are far from living sustainably. In 2022, 13.7 percent of all off-campus students in Boston (5,088) resided in Allston—ranking Allston as the second most highly student-populated neighborhood in Boston behind Fenway/Longwood. So by the time Sept. 1 arrives, and 70 percent of Boston’s leases start, much of this student body is pushed out in search of another home, along with their copious amounts of garbage. This past year alone, Allston Christmas generated 38 tons of trash, along with 1,700 thrown-out mattresses.

For many college students, however, living sustainably isn’t a top priority. There’s classes to attend, relationships to strengthen, and general adjustments to independent living that makes changing ordinary habits feel onerous. As Kathleen Hart, communications manager for the City of Boston’s Environment Department, puts it, conserving resources is never a one-person job.

“The City of Boston is doing the work,” said Hart in an interview with the Beacon. “And when you do the work as well . . . you’re working alongside the city; you’re not doing it alone.”

This work is reflected in the abundance of resources and programs provided within the City of Boston that helps make environment-related change easier, more affordable, and—most importantly—-more sustainable. The following items are such resources and programs that any student can use to make Boston and the planet a cleaner and merrier place.

Boston Community Choice Electricity:

If you’ve ever paid an electric bill in Boston, then you’re eligible for the Boston Community Choice (BCCE)  program. The BCCE program purchases Massachusetts Class I Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)—certifying that your electricity comes from a renewable energy generator—to then be sold to consumers. 

The program offers three products, providing 22 percent renewable energy, 32 percent renewable energy, and 100 percent renewable energy at an affordable price. The more renewable the option, the higher the price, but for college students, there’s no need to worry.

“If you’re a college student, it’s okay if you do the 32 percent renewable instead of the 100 percent renewable,” said Hart. “You’re still taking a stride towards creating a better future for generations to come.”

Between January and June of just this year, BCCE saved its users $111 million in comparison with Eversource’s base rates—however, bills will still be from Eversource.

To join the program, just fill out a short opt-in program on Boston’s government website.. The program offers an opt-out option at any time with no penalty. 


In the U.S., 66 percent of textiles end up in landfills, and in Boston, textiles make up 7 percent of the city’s total waste. But the City of Boston has partnered with Helpsy, a textile collection company, to make donating textiles a simple and easy process. Throughout the city, 24 textile dropboxes—from East Boston to Hyde Park— are open for donation. As long as items are clean, anything from footwear to luggage to linens can be donated. For even greater convenience, Helpsy also offers a free at-home pickup service. Once an appointment is scheduled, drivers will pick up any donations left in front of the given address. It is recommended that this service is only utilized when donations fill three or more bags in order to reduce emissions. 

Fix-it Clinics:

For those who forgot to bring a toolkit to campus, their damaged belongings are no longer unsalvageable. Since May of this year, the City of Boston has hosted eleven fix-it clinics to repair damaged clothes, computers, appliances, and more. The clinic is free of charge and only requires a quick registration via google form informing the clinic of how the item is broken. The City of Boston has three more scheduled clinics within the next two months. 

Mattress Recycling

More often than not, a blue 64 gallon recycling bin cannot hold an entire mattress or box spring. But that’s no reason to throw them away because about 75 percent of all mattress and box spring parts are recyclable—meaning less waste has to be sent to incinerators or piled up in landfills. 

To ensure that mattresses are recycled, the City of Boston no longer allows mattresses to be abandoned on the side of the road, and instead offers a mattress pick-up service. Residents who live in a building with six units or less can schedule an appointment with a single phone call. For those who live in more populated buildings, other pick-up services are offered by groups like Green Mattress and HandUp Mattress Recycling & Upcycling.

Alert Boston:

Sustainable living is integral to helping push back against climate change, but, unfortunately, climate change is very much a thing of the present. Since the turn of the 20th century, the planet has increased by nearly two degrees farenheit, leading to record high temperatures, more severe storms, and other profound changes. Carbon reduction will not completely prevent these current changes, making climate adaptation—the process of adjusting to climate change—an important step in environmentalism.

Alert Boston is an automated notification system that sends its registrants weather updates and suggestions for how to be safe during weather-related events—along with various other non-weather-related notifications. Registration can be found via the City of Boston’s website, and requires a provided phone number, address, and email address to sign up. 

In the event of any weather-related emergency, however, it’s important to go beyond personal preparation. More and more people will face the damaging effects of climate as extreme weather will become more and more frequent. 

“Say for a heat wave, just checking in on your loved ones [is important] because heat is the leading cause of climate-related death in the country,” said Hart. “In terms of snow, in terms of flooding, anything like that, checking in on people is huge.”

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